If we break it down, there are typically four main ways people to make money directly with a website:

  1. Selling your  own products
  2. Affiliate marketing
  3. Selling a service
  4. Advertising

Of course there may be other ways people make money with websites, but even if you have to stretch the idea a little, you could probably fit it into one of these four categories.

Today we’ll look at how you might help a WordPress site make money in each of these four areas.

1. Selling Your Own Products

Selling your own products can mean selling either physical or digital products. It can also mean selling access to content.

Physical Products: Of course selling a physical product can mean selling anything from baby strollers to sports equipment to heavy duty machinery. In order to do this with WordPress, the main piece of the puzzle you’ll need will be some type of shopping cart, and so you’ll need to look for a WordPress e-commerce plugin like MarketPress from WPMU DEV (this plugin also lets you sell digital products).

Marketpress Plugin

Digital Products: Selling digital products would include selling ebooks, audios, videos, images, etc. If you are not going through some third-party service that will handle your downloads for you, then you’ll want to pick up a digital download plugin like Easy Digital Downloads  to help you do that right through your site.

Access to Content: Selling access could encompasses membership sites, training seminars, webinars, plain news or information, etc. The easiest way to do this with WordPress is to pick up a membership plugin.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing (i.e. getting a commission when selling another’s products or services) is one of the most popular ways to make money online. While some sites do run their own private affiliate programs, most people end up selling through the larger players such as Amazon, Commission Junction, LinkShare,  ShareASale, Clickbank, etc.

While there are different types of plugins out there to help with affiliate marketing, many of the top affiliate marketers often say that what works best is good, solid content and a good ol’ simple link.

But no matter what you’re linking, the one tool that should be in any affiliate marketer’s toolbox is a redirection plugin such as Pretty Link Lite or Simple URLs.

What these plugins do is turn long, ugly URLs into clean, short URLs that look like they are going to another section of your site. They also track those links for you.

So, for example, if you link to Amazon with a URL that looks like this:

amazon.com/xyz-water-bottle/ /dp/PWWOUE329/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367729447392&sr=8-1

You can turn it into a link that looks like this:

mysite.com/xyz-water-bottle/

The prettier link will likely be less of a turnoff to those who look at where the link is going by mousing over it first. But even more importantly, it will track those clicks for you. That means you can do things like set up mysite.com/xyz-water-bottle-1/ for one link and mysite.com/xyz-water-bottle-2/ for a different link (both going to same Amazon page), and then compare which link is getting more clicks. Once you have some stats, you can start analyzing and tweaking. No more guessing involved.

3. Selling a Service

Selling a service could involve all sorts of things, from selling SEO services to selling cleaning services. Different niches may require different approaches, but no matter your market, when you’re selling a service, you have to make getting in to contact with you easy.

Believe it or not, WordPress does not come with a built-in contact form. Not to worry, however, there are plenty of plugins that will do the job for you, and do it well. One of the more popular (but also simple) contact forms is the Contact Form 7 plugin.

If you want to take getting in touch even further, you could include a chat plugin like Quick Chat. Or you could even add a Skype widget to your site like Skype Online Status. This plugin will let your visitors click a button and call you on Skype right from your website.

Selling a service can also get into many other areas, such as using the Multisite function available in WordPress in order to run a site like WordPress.com, where you let users sign up for free and then place ads on their sites, or let them upgrade to premium services and then charge for them. Or you could do both, of course.

Other options that fall under the “services” banner include running a classified ads site or running a directory. In either of these cases, you can get both plugins or themes (with functionality built in) to help you do that. Also in either case, you could open up free to the public and then run advertising, or you could run a premium service and charge users per listing. Or, once again, you could do both.

4. Advertising

And finally we come to advertising. Advertising comes in many forms. Some of the more common are …

  • CPC – Cost Per Click (like Google’s Adsense)
  • CPM – Cost Per Thousand Impressions (M in this case is for the Roman numeral for 1,000)
  • Time Based Ads – Ads that stay up for an agreed upon time
  • Sponsor Ads – Things such as paid reviews or just general sponsorship of content
  • Text Link – Selling links in content

Advertising is like real estate in that location is one of the most important aspects. If your running Google Adsense, for example, then you want those ads to be in front of people so they’ll click on them. If you’re selling banner ads directly, then the advertiser is going to want the ads to be in front of people, or they aren’t going to buy from you.

All that makes sense, but it’s not quite as simple as it seems. If you rely on search engine traffic from places like Google, then you can’t just cram the top half of your site with ads so people will see them and click on them.

Well, you can, but you’ll likely lose your search traffic if you do that. You see, places like Google have page layout algorithms.  And so what that means in the real world is that search engines don’t want to send visitors to sites that are nothing but ads. They want to send visitors to sites where the content is up front and easy to find.

Because of that, advertising plugins can be especially handy. They can help you do things such as inject ads into the middle of content, show ads to some visitors but not others, automatically randomize ads, and more.

Here are a few you may want to check out:

  • AdRotate – Show random banners, use Google Adsense, get stats, get email notifications, and much more.
  • WP-Insert – Lets you insert ads in all sorts of way: before you content, after your content, in the middle of your content, to the side of your content.
  • Google Adsense Plugin – Control parameters of your Google Adsense ads right from your blog – size, color, type, positioning, etc.

While there are obviously lots other types of plugins that may help your site, it’s always important to keep in mind how your site makes money. With the loads of plugins available for WordPress, you should be able to optimize that approach, no matter which it is.

Joe Foley is a writer and editor for WPMU.org (http://wpmu.org) and WPMU DEV (http://premium.wpmudev.org). He specializes in helping WordPress users learn how to better manage their sites, as well as keep up with the latest in themes, plugins, and WordPress related services.

Photo Credit: Images_Of_Money

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